More Than the Sum of Our Parts
It was this dimension that Paul was describing when he taught that the Church - for all its variety, complexity and disunity - is a single living being, the Body of Christ. Every part of it is alive, but every part of it needs every other part, because only working together can the Church fully express the life of Christ. The more that the various members interact creatively with one another by means of faith, the more that the transformative power, that Jesus demonstrated, becomes available because the Body as a whole is more than the sum of its parts.
The life that each person contributes to a group is magnified by interacting with others to become something far more powerful. As the various parts are aligned and deployed through a creative process of interaction, a greater energy is generated, a deeper power, an enlarged potential. The principle works at every scale: individual, cell group, congregation, network. The life available to the whole is far greater than that available to the separate parts and greater even than the life available to the sum of those parts.
Paul is able to use this image because it also applies to us as individuals. Every part of me is fully alive, but even when the liveliness of my various parts is added together, “I” am more than that. “I” am more than every one of these things, and more, even, than all of them put together.
The human personality, considered as a whole, is a dynamic organism which is far more than the sum of its parts, when we allow all the various aspects of ourselves to intersect and interact with one another. This interaction can be demanding, but as we learn its disciplines, we are rewarded with a sense of convergence, creativity and resourcefulness. The process opens up new possibilities, and through these, the creating, saving, enlivening life of God can flow with an energy that is above and beyond the power of the component parts. We enter into a new dimension of life altogether.
Hard to believe because we are not taught that we are, ourselves, abundant. But someone with low self-esteem has been taught to think meanly of life, the universe, God and others because those around them have thought meanly of them. Half-empty, half-full cliché, but underneath the cliché there is a profound truth. The way we see the world shapes our whole way of thinking, the way we feel about ourselves and others, our attitude to life, our response to what is asked of us, our choices and our actions. And while both of these ways of seeing the world can be equally accurate in many situations –morally neutral – equally valid alternatives, there are situations in which having a half-full view of life predisposes us to think and act creatively, generously, compassionately, courageously and resiliently. The more we are inclined to think positively about ourselves and others, the more likely we are to have faith and keep faith.
Damaging ideas – lack of affirmation, low self esteem, reinforce dependence and depression.
My “self” – or at least the part that I am aware of – is contained within my skin, but with a little help, my personality can extend far beyond it. I can project it onto the page as I write, onto the canvas as I paint, across vast distances as I talk on the phone. I can use it to command an audience and guide them through a multi-dimensional shared experience, such as an act of worship. I have used it to create an impression on others – for good or ill – which will last as long as people remember me. To a very large extent, my personality and that of my husband, form the foundation which has shaped the lives of our two daughters.
Eyes - we look with, signal with, establish a relationship with. We imagine. See with our mind’s eye.
Ears - hear with, listen to, pay attention to what is going on around us.
Heart - keeps us alive, and, symbolically, seat of our emotions. Love, joy, belonging.
Hands - do things, take action, touch others, connect with ourselves, with other people and with the world around us, achieve, symbol for our personal power.
Feet - walk, travel, journey, pilgrimage, life experience.